The fragmented construction business has too many subgroups, many say, but one now forming could be an industry wake-up call. The Construction Millennials of America, a small group of under-30 professionals in the San Francisco Bay Area who banded together in 2008 to network and share workplace stories, now hopes to expand and start influencing company strategy sooner rather than later.
“Because of the significant drop-off in population between baby boomers and Generation X, there will be management positions that will need to be filled with Generation-Y employees who may or may not be up to the task,” says Kevin Re, 25, a CMA founder and account manager at Gallagher Construction Services, a San Francisco risk manager. “By forming CMA, we have taken it upon ourselves to make sure we are ready to step up.” The group, which has its own logo and a Website under way, meets six times a year and sponsors volunteer, educational and social events for potential recruits.
Organizers of CMA, which now has 18 members but seeks to grow as a non-profit clearinghouse for the industry’s “Gen-Y” workforce, say the group’s value is its member diversity. Participants are from core industry firms but also work for suppliers, sureties, banks and other entities across the construction spectrum. CMA leaders hope to attract those in the construction trades as well. “I jumped at the opportunity to join,” says Doug Durbin, 26, a project engineer for McGuire and Hester, an Oakland, Calif., engineer-construction manager. “Group interaction will help Gen-Y professionals stay above the learning curve and will empower us.” Durbin says his employer supports CMA and nominated him to join.
Participants revel in having a platform that reflects their age group’s sensibilities and social networking expertise. “It is tough being a young person in an industry filled with older generations,” says Jake Concannon, a Gallagher business development manager. “Although we lack work experience, our generation is not a fan of the put-in-your-time mentality. There is so much information at our fingertips that it does not take as long as it used to, to understand something new.”
Adds Michael Klingman, 26, a project manager for contractor S.D. Deacon Corp., Citrus Heights, Calif., “our long-term goal is to become the leader in shaping the industry’s view of construction and help it change the every-man-for-himself methodology of thinking.”
Jill Brown, 26, a project engineer with Nibbi Brothers, a San Francisco general contractor, says CMA will allow Gen-Y’ers to get a jump on relationship-building that might otherwise take years. “A lot of us start work on projects and can’t meet people on the outside who are involved in making projects happen,” she says. “CMA helps make those pivotal connections.”
The group actually was propelled by someone over 30, Mark Breslin, the 49-year-old CEO of the Engineering and Utility Contractors Association, a 400-member industry trade group in San Ramon, Calif. “The Millennial peer synergy is going to transform our industry,” he says. “These young people are smarter about their own needs than the Boomers were. CMA is less a rejection of the past than a need to validate a younger generation’s talents and contribution peer-to-peer within an organization’s chain of command.”
CMA membership also “helps make us less vulnerable to the downturn impacts felt by many of our peers,” says co-founder Jennifer Gross, a structural engineer at Degenkolb, San Francisco. “We are showing our employers how valuable we are.” Concannon and Re say those seeking CMA information can contact jake_con email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org.